Pubs code adjudicator receives over 550 enquiries in its first year

By Fred A'Court

- Last updated on GMT

Slow progress: adjudicator Paul Newby has so far settled just 48 cases.
Slow progress: adjudicator Paul Newby has so far settled just 48 cases.

Related tags: Pca paul newby, Pubs code, Public house, Pca

More than 550 enquiries have been made to the pubs code adjudicator (PCA) in its first year with the overwhelming number of cases that have been accepted relating to the market-rent-only (MRO) option under which tied tenants can request to go free of tie.

Of 156 cases accepted, 131 relate to the MRO with the remaining 25 dealing with rent assessment proposals and market rents determined by independent assessors.

Despite the relatively high number of referrals, PCA Paul Newby has so far settled just 48 cases.

It has led to calls for Newby to bring in help to speed up case settlements.

The pubs code is designed to give new rights and protections for 12,000 tenants in English and Welsh pubs owned by a total of six pub groups.

Gathering evidence

More than 30 MRO referrals accepted by the PCA concern Ei Group pubs. The PCA has given bands rather than specific numbers. It said it was also dealing with between 21 and 30 cases relating to Green King, 11 to 20 concerning Punch, and 1 to 10 for both Star Pubs & Bars, and Marston’s. No cases have been accepted for Admiral Taverns sites.

The PCA justified using bands rather than specific figures saying that it did not want to risk identifying individual cases.

It is gathering evidence on how the MRO part of the pubs code is working in practice and Newby has hinted he may take action to improve matters once fact-finding results are in.

There have been accusations that the MRO options being offered are astronomically high, which may explain why so many referrals to the PCA have been made and, with them, consequent complaints of delays in settlement.

Newby, however, merely described the slow progress as “an imbalance between the parties”.

Both tenants and pub-owning businesses are testing the new law robustly, he said.

“Parties in a dispute are entitled to a proper opportunity to put their case and rebut that of the other party.

“In my role as arbitrator, I seek to ensure that this happens, especially where there is an imbalance between the parties. This is one of the reasons why more cases have not yet completed the process.”

He added that he fully expected to see progress over the coming year.

“I am also awaiting the results of the fact-finding exercise on access to the market-rent-only (MRO) option. This will provide evidence on how the code is working in practice and how effective it is proving in delivering its core principles.

“When I have those results I will decide what action is appropriate.”

A fairer deal for tenants?

Business minister Margot James said the code is helping pub tenants get a fairer deal. “It is encouraging to see people are aware of their rights under the code and (that they) are contacting the enquiry line for more information,” she said.

“I would encourage both tenants and pub-owning companies to continue working with the PCA, to make sure the code works for the whole industry.”

The PCA has launched a series of six short videos marking its first anniversary, and featuring the adjudicator. These explain key code processes such as requesting MRO or appointing an independent assessor. The videos can be accessed via the PCA website at www.gov.uk/pca.

Newby said: “From day one, I have made it a priority to engage with tenants and raise awareness of the new rights under the code across the community.

“I want to ensure that I reach as many tenants as possible to inform them of their rights and these videos are designed to reach a wider audience.

“I know tenants have very busy working lives but I hope they can spend a few minutes checking how these rights can help them make the best decisions for their businesses.”

Related topics: Legislation

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